By Suzanne Alicie
The past year has opened my eyes to the joys (?) of living with an aging/elderly dog. Bear is almost 11, and she is showing her age.
As a fairly large dog, she is experiencing some arthritis and hip dysplasia symptoms. We’ve had to get her a thick comfy therapeutic bed, which she loves. The hard part is convincing her that she is too old and stiff to still go under our bed. It’s always been her favorite place. When she gets under there, I find myself having to pick up the bed enough for her to stand up and limp out.
When her hip locks up on her, I sit in the floor and massage her leg while she whimpers. This is a very emotional thing for me, because I can’t stand when she cries. Fortunately this is not a daily thing, and if I can keep her from going under the bed or jumping around and acting like a much younger dog, then she doesn’t hurt too much. So far we’ve been pretty lucky that Bear hasn’t developed more health problems like the ones Ruthie Bently discussed in Common Health Issues for Older Dogs.
With her old age, Bear has begun to be quite moody. If you’ve read some of my other posts about Bear you know that she is not a very social dog. She loves her family and is tolerant of our guests, but lately she makes it clear that she doesn’t like people visiting. When someone comes to the door she has always barked until we let them in. Once she saw us let them in and she was able to sniff them she’d be quiet and go lay down somewhere. These days when anyone comes over she barks and barks. They go into another room and she quiets down until she hears one of them laugh or talk and she barks some more. It’s almost like she forgets someone is here until she hears their voice, then she has to warn them that it’s her house.
She’s also become much more stubborn and demanding, as if she thinks that her age entitles her to whatever she wants. Rather than waiting for me to call her and have her sit and shake for a CANIDAE TidNips treat, she “yells” at me. She usually chooses while I’m in the middle of work to decide that I need to get up and give her a treat, and she won’t be quiet until I do. Needless to say, I feel as if I’m the one who is trained lately. I’m taking notes though, because when I get older I will need to remember these tricks to get my kids to wait on me hand and foot too!
Being finicky has never been an issue with Bear. She loves food and doesn’t care where or who it comes from, but she recently seems to have a serious problem with anyone but me feeding her. She was yelling at me a few weeks ago while I was watching television, and I knew it wasn’t a treat she wanted – her food bowl was empty. So I asked her Daddy to feed her. He went in and put the food in her bowl, petted her and came back to sit down. She didn’t eat; instead she ran to me and continued barking. I had to get up and go touch her food bowl before she would eat.
I thought parenting a child was difficult, but having an old dog is like having a toddler who is clingy, demanding, grouchy and in need of a nap. However, Bear is family so as she becomes a grouchy old lady we’ll just love her anyway. We know our time with her is limited, so we try to make sure every day is a good one for her and continue to fill her life with love and comfort no matter how moody and demanding she is. That’s all part of responsible pet ownership; dogs are a lifetime commitment, from the cuddly puppy to the destructive “toddler phase” to the joyous mature dog days and yes, even the old, aching and moody days of aging.
Read more articles by Suzanne Alicie
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